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Reading Is Believing: The Christian Faith through Literature and Film [Paperback]

By David S. Cunningham (Author)
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Item Number 114364  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   238
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.06" Width: 6.14" Height: 0.61"
Weight:   0.87 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Nov 1, 2002
Publisher   Brazos Press
ISBN  1587430444  
EAN  9781587430442  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
An introduction to reading the Apostles' Creed through literature and film.

Publishers Description
In this fascinating and fresh look at the Apostles' Creed, David Cunningham argues that reading fiction and film can lead Christians to a deeper, more precise, and more experiential knowledge of their faith. Drawing on novels, plays, and films by the likes of Dickens, Shakespeare, P. D. James, and Graham Greene, Cunningham discusses the Apostles' Creed in detail, using one primary text to illuminate each article.
Cunningham begins with a brief history of the Christian creeds and their significance. In addition to plot summaries, each chapter includes discussion questions addressing the relationship between literature and faith and concludes with a works cited list and a list for further reading.
This book will delight Christians who want to better understand the creeds and basic doctrinal confessions of the Christian faith. While academics, theologians, and literature and film aficionados will celebrate
Cunningham's keen literary and theological insights, the book is equally readable for those with little background in these fields of study.
"Reading Is Believing" is an ideal text for Christian education classes, adult Sunday school, and church-based book clubs. It will serve well as a text in theology courses, as well as various courses in the humanities, ethics, and cultural and religious studies.

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More About David S. Cunningham

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David S. Cunningham is Professor of Religion at Hope College, where he also serves as Director of the CrossRoads Project and of the Klooster Center for Excellence in Writing.

David S. Cunningham was born in 1961 and has an academic affiliation as follows - Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, Evanston Hope College, Michigan,.

David S. Cunningham has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Challenges in Contemporary Theology

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
The play's the thing...  Dec 26, 2003
David Cunningham is one of my favourite contemporary Anglican theologians. This particular books follows an intriguing pattern, using the Apostles' Creed as a framework for examining the kinds of theological narratives that can come from literature and film. Looking at items as diverse as Shakespeare's 'Winter's Tale' and Sr. Helen Prejean's 'Dead Man Walking', Cunningham traces theological principles from the traditional formula of the creed through more popular and secular creative works. This is an effective and interesting look at theology and the arts, one that can cause the reader to rethink everyday experiences of reading and film-viewing.

Cunningham contends that literature and film cause the readers/viewers to engage humanity more fully than a philosophical text or creed is likely to do; this is one of the features of narrative theology generally. This helps to emphasise a communal aspect Christian belief, which from the beginning has been a communal piece. Just as the Christian story itself is a narrative (each of the canonical gospels presents a narrative structure), drama and storytelling in other contexts have the ability to touch the human soul deeply. Following this, the stories not only help people understand the principles, but also serve to embody them - Christianity being an incarnational religion, embodiment of the principles is a strong device.

Each chapter takes up a different line from the Apostles' Creed (the introduction beginning with the 'I believe...'). To each of these lines of faithful affirmation, Cunningham pairs a work of literature (most of which have also been made into films). These pairings are as follows:

+ God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth
-- Iris Murdoch, 'The Time of the Angels'

+ Jesus Christ, God's Only Son, Our Lord
-- Nikos Kazantzakis, 'The Last Temptation of Christ'

+ Conceived by the Holy Spirit, Born of the Virgin Mary
-- P.D. James, 'The Children of Men'

+ Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was Crucified, Died, and Buried
-- Charles Dickens, 'Hard Times'

+ Descended into Hell, On the Third Day Rose Again
-- David James Duncan, 'The Brothers K'

+ Ascended into Heaven, Sitting at the Right Hand of God
-- William Shakespeare, 'The Winter's Tale'

+ He Will Come to Judge the Living and the Dead
-- Toni Morrison, 'Beloved'

+ I Believe in the Holy Spirit
-- Flannery O'Connor, 'The Enduring Chill'

+ The Holy Catholic Church, the Communion of Saints
-- Barbara Kingsolver, 'Animal Dreams'

+ The Forgiveness of Sins
-- Helen Prejean, 'Dead Man Walking'

+ The Resurrection of the Flesh
-- Graham Greene, 'The End of the Affair'

+ And the Life Everlasting
-- Guiseppe Tornatore, 'A Pure Formality'

Creeds are, Cunningham says, more prayers and living statements of belief rather than laundry lists to be recited by rote. When we say 'Amen' to the creed at the end of the recitation, we are calling for it to be enacted, embodied, and lived. These stories help demonstrate points at which the statements of the creed come alive.

Each of the chapters begins with a general essay on the theological topic contained in the creed, followed by a discussion of how the specific literary/cinematic work fits in with the topic. However, the discussion is not exclusive to the particular piece at hand. Cunningham brings a wide range of literary and artistic works to bear in his discussion, showing how ubiquitous the ideas can become if only viewed properly.

Obviously, the stories, like the windings of Christian theology, are very complex, and not easily reducible to bullet-points. The characters are complex, as are the people in our lives, and the situations present difficult questions reminiscent of those we face (or choose to avoid) on a daily basis.

This is a text that is accessible and insightful, one that can make theology interesting to those who would ordinarily shy away from it as an irrelevant or too-complex subject for study. It can also help broaden the horizons of any reader to become more theologically and spiritually sensitive to the various media communicating in life generally.

A Book to Own and Treasure  Nov 14, 2002
If you're like me and most Christians I know, you want to understand how your faith actually connects with and informs your everyday life: business, family, whatever. The less we see the connection between the statements of our faith and our life as lived each day, the less relevance it has and the less interest we have in it. We may believe it, as we would a mathematical formula, but we don't actually LIVE it day by day.

David Cunningham helps us see the connection. He uses the statements of the Apostles' Creed and builds a chapter around each one; e.g. "God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth" deals with the Trinity whereas "Ascended into Heaven" treats the implication of the belief that Jesus ascended to God the Father. There are twelve chapters covering the whole of the faith in a summary manner.

Relating these faith statements to the real world, Cunningham does through fascinating explications of books and film. So, each chapter begins with a theological treatment of the credal statement, and ends with a treatment of the relevance of that statement as seen in the book or the film. This is soooo helpful.

As to the book's theology, don't be fearful. The author is clear and accessible in his writing. Masterful really. I've done some reading in theology (my hobby) and I can see how well he explains his topic and how well he avoids getting caught up in arcane arguments, the relevance of which most of us have difficulty seeing. His concern is to make our faith alive, to help us see where the rubber meets the road. I for one think he achieves his objective.

One small but annoying drawback is that the book has no index. This makes it hard to find your way back to something you want to recall unless you've underlined a lot. To my mind, just about every book that isn't a piece of literature should have an index, and even there I might argue for an index. They are so helpful.

Overall, this is a very good piece of work and well worth the price of having it. It makes theology clear, interesting, and relevant. It gives content to our beliefs, such that they're not simply statements we recite but have no idea how they affect anything we do. And who wouldn't want that kind of help?


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